THE Government has ordered all London schools to remain open – 24 hours after two councils announced early Christmas closures.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says kids must stay in classes in Greenwich after a rogue Labour council demanded schools shut.
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Schools in London must stay open, the Government says – after two boroughs announced closures
Mayor Sadiq Khan had thrown his weight behind closures in Greenwich and IslingtonCredit: PA:Press Association
Gavin Williamson says he will seek High Court injunctions to keep kids in class if necessaryCredit: Getty Images – Getty
In a nuclear intervention, Mr Williamson has given the council until 10am tomorrow to withdraw their letter telling heads to dismiss classes a week early.
And he threatened to get a High Court injunction to force them to U-turn if they refuse to comply.
Islington council, which made a similar request to schools today, has not received a letter from the DfE yet.
However, the body says the Regional Schools Commissioner had spoken with the local authority.
In a blistering statement, Mr Williamson fumed tonight: “It is simply not in children’s best interests for schools in Greenwich, Islington or elsewhere to close their doors.
“I have always been clear that using legal powers is a last resort but continuity of education is a national priority.
“That’s why I won’t hesitate to do what is right for young people and have issued a direction to Greenwich Council setting out that they must withdraw the letter issued to headteachers on Sunday.”
It comes as millions more prepare to move into Tier 3 lockdowns
Parents were left furious after hundreds of schools said they’d close – leaving mums and dads no notice to find alternatives for their children.
Greenwich council leader Danny Thorpe said yesterday Public Health England had advised the authority to shut all 133 schools as Covid cases were “escalating extremely quickly”.
Explaining his shock decision, he has said: “I wouldn’t be asking for this unless the risk was extreme, but with numbers rising so rapidly it is clear action is needed.”
Then today, Islington Council advised schools to move to online learning from Wednesday morning because of a serious rise in coronavirus cases across London.
The capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan called for all schools to close in the capital amid a surge of cases in the city.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, he said “urgent consideration must…be given to closing secondary schools, sixth form and FE colleges a few days early and keeping them closed for longer after Christmas“.
But the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to keeping schools open.
It can take legal action against councils which shut schools under the Coronavirus Act, which allows officials to issue ‘directions’ to headteachers during the pandemic.
It is understood that directions under the act would only be used as a last resort, while a court order would be sought if they were not followed.
Last night, DfE said it was their “strong expectation” that children will continue going to class, despite rising cases.
Full list of places going into Tier 3 on Wednesday
S & W Essex:
- Epping Forest
- Castle Point
- Braintree & Chelmsford
- Thurrock and South End on Sea Borough councils
- Watford and the three river local authority
All of London
It was announced today that the capital – along with parts of Essex and Hertfordshire – will move into Tier 3 measures on Wednesday.
Under the tier, shops and gyms can remain open, but all hospitality venues – including restaurants, pubs and bars – must shut.
However, they are permitted to offer takeaway and delivery services, as well as click and collect and drive-thru business.
Other restrictions under Tier 3 include a ban on household mixing indoors and in private gardens – though groups of up to six can meet outside in public parks – and theatres, cinemas, bowling alleys, casinos and nightclubs must also close.
Schools are to remain open in all tiers, the Government has ordered.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries said shutting schools early “would so more harm than good”.
She told MPs in a Zoom briefing that the behaviour of teens “can be somewhat controlled” in schools which have been made Covid secure, and warned that “if they’re not in school, they are likely to mix anyway without a responsible adult to intervene”.
Swale and Medway in Kent are now the country’s hardest-hit regions, with more than 600 cases per 100,000 people.
The Government considers quarantine measures for travellers arriving in the UK when cases rise above 20 per 100,000 people.
Basildon in Essex is in third place. The rate in the town has risen sharply from 372.9 to 613.8 per 100,000 within just a week, with 1,149 new cases.
Havering is London’s worst-hit borough, coming in fifth place with a rate of 506.3.
Coronavirus cases have surged 21 per cent in a week
London mayor Sadiq Khan has written to the PM over rising cases
It was today announced that the capital will go into Tier 3 on Wednesday